The Freedom of Getting Rid of Things

May 11, 2018

Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash


Minimalism is the trend of modernity. Books, photos, letters are all going digital, but some of us still miss the smell or the tactile feeling of a book or the visual luxury of a hand-written letter, which conveys much by the handwriting, not just the words.

There’s no right way to feel about either end of the spectrum, but there are proven psychological reasons not to save excessive amounts of things. Hoarding is actually a psychological condition, and we will not touch upon it here, since it requires professional attention. In any case, experts say that clearing your home of unnecessary things clears out your mind as well, and whatever age you are – there are always definite benefits to that.

Many people choose to downsize their housing as they grow older, partly for financial reasons, partly because they may have a more difficult time with maintaining a large space, partly because they just don’t need a space as large any longer, after the children grow up and move out. Whatever the reasons are, downsizing also requires some serious work on the possessions – which also need to be somehow downsized. For some people, it’s difficult to part even with the things that do not hold either practical or emotional significance.

So, what’s to be done?

The general rule of thumb is – if you haven’t worn clothes for two years – get rid of them, you’re unlikely to wear them ever again. And getting rid of them can be of great service to someone else – take anything that is in good shape to a homeless shelter or the Salvation Army.

Garage sales are also a great win/win way to get rid of your things. You can cash in on some of your possessions that are no longer of use to you, and someone else can acquire it at a reasonable price. For more internet-savvy people, there’s and, where anything will find its use.

The new freedom

The most difficult issue is, of course, the emotions to be dealt with for both your loved senior and you as a caregiver. Each of the items people hold on with tenderness usually have a story behind them. It doesn’t need to be a grand story, just a piece of memorabilia that means something to the person. The important thing here is to remember that these little odds and ends (or grand pianos and furniture pieces) are of emotional significance to the person holding on to them, but usually not to those around (as much as they may love the person in question).

Grown-up children who will come to help you sort through your possessions when you decided it’s time to downsize will probably not want to keep all of your stuffed animal collection or out-of-order Christmas lights. This fact does not at all reflect their feelings for you, they just have their own stuffed animal collection at this point in their lives. It’s best if you go through your things and decide what you do and do not need, rather than expect your children to hold on to your things. This, of course, requires communication, because, after all, we may be wrong and it may be just the opposite in your case.

Possessions do create a familiar, recognizable world around a person, but it’s essential to remember that they do not embody anyone’s identity. Getting rid of some of the things that you’re used to may challenge your familiar sense of self, but also let a fresh wind in and allow you to feel the freedom of who you really are. Of course, certain things need to stay – and deep inside you know precisely what they are. Others can be photographed, since it’s often the memories, not the dusty object in a box in the attic that cherish. An album of your photographed treasures is more accessible and evokes just as many memories as the objects themselves.

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